Ardila Syakriah, Jakarta – The Religious Affairs Ministry has insisted that the protests against the renovation of Santo Joseph Catholic Church in Karimun, Riau Islands, are not an act of intolerance.
"I went to Karimun. The point is there is no intolerance issue there. The problem [with the renovation] is merely regarding its building permit [IMB]," Religious Affairs Ministry special staff member Ubaidilah Amin Moech said on Tuesday.
He added that the church's renovation committee had agreed to wait for the Tanjungpinang State Administrative Court (PTUN) in Batam to issue its ruling on a lawsuit regarding the renovation. The Karimun Regency Caring Alliance (APKK) previously sued the Karimun One-Stop Integrated Service for granting the building permit for the church renovation.
Ubaidillah denied that a number of people had been reported to the police amid the protests. "The church's renovation committee was not reported to the police. The force only questioned them to clarify information disseminated on social media."
Coordinating Legal, Political and Security Affairs Minister, Mahfud MD, claimed on Monday that the case had been settled, as all related parties agreed to refrain from doing anything that would raise tensions.
The renovation of the church has been halted since Feb. 6, after members of the APKK and local United Muslim Forum (FUIB) protested against the work. They also reportedly objected to the church's location in Karimun's capital of Tanjung Balai.
The church, which was established in 1928, obtained a building license (IMB) for the renovation in October last year.
The renovation committee had started working on the permit to renovate the church since May 2012, when they wrote a letter to ask for support from the local community. They eventually collected 107 signatures of non-Catholic residents in Tanjung Balai who supported the work.
The signatures were required according to a 2006 joint ministerial decree on procedures to build places of worship, requiring a congregation to get 90 signatures from its members and another 60 from other residents prior to the construction.
The Tanjung Balai district office issued a recommendation letter on the renovation on July 2, 2012. (hol)